Sunday, July 10, 2011


2011 Hollywood introduced the world to the god of thunder, Thor.   Blazing the cobblestones and winding roads across the Alps in and out of France this July, is that thunderous hero transformed as the dual weapon phenom from Norway, Thor Hushovd.  Thor Hushovd is the reigning World Champion, and was one of three cyclists vying for Sprint Jersey at the 2010 Tour de France, that was decided on the final day circling the Champs Elysees.  Alessandro Petacchi of Italy just edged out Thor.  Since July 25, 2010, there’s been a few shake downs amongst teams (to say the least), that has the thunderous hammer of Norway dreaming of yellow. During Cycling’s off season, one of USA’s power teams decided to muscle up and not only contend for the team title at 2011 Le Tour de France,  but lay claim a jersey or two come Podium time in Paris on July 25.  Team Garmin, managed by geek sheek cycling genius Jonathan Vaughters gobbled up Switzerland’s Cervelo Test Team.  With that acquisition, Garmin gained the likes of Thor Hushovd and Gabriel Rasch of Norway. Hushovd has joined Tyler Farrar, Daniel Martin, David Millar, David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, and Tom Danielson as well as two others to create a team with the strength to contend in almost all Jersey categories – GC, mountain, and sprint; of course, last but not least, a team title.

The 4th of July brings the 3rd stage of 22, in the most grueling competition known to man, Le Tour de France.  It’s in it’s 101st year of competition and there are fireworks yet to be seen as the race progresses out of the sprinter days ascending in to the Alps.  Crashes, early stage courses, and a blistering team time trial, have brought surprises, and a beaming  thunderous Thor to the forefront as Le Tour’s possible favorite to remain in yellow.  Garmin-Cervelo’s team time trial win secured the yellow jersey to Thor by less than a second over teammate Millar.  In stage 3, on the road to Brittany, it was fitting to see Thor as one of the set up men to carve a sprinter win for American teammate Tyler Farrar.  It seems as if Vaughters has managed to create a golden team, so far appearing untouchable.  Thus, I must remind myself, it’s day 3.  As bright and refreshing Thor, Tyler, and Vaughters has been shifting attention over to an American team contending in the early days of Le Tour, what would cycling’s greatest stage be without drama and controversy?

Cycling fans had a front row seat last year to a break out and heated rivalry between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. Forget about Team Ed or Jacob, that’s kids’ stuff compared to the mano e mano stare downs that took place during the grueling climbs on the 2010 Tour.  A pouting Andy Schleck had the misfortune of a derailed chain on a climb where he was in front and Contador was fading. Needless to say, Contador jumped at the opportunity to gain time at an unfortunate equipment malfunction.  Schleck lost the GC by 39 seconds, and sorely looked at his miniscule 2nd place plaque.  Schleck made it clear he was out to get what he felt was rightfully his (the yellow jersey in Paris, the GC) in 2011.  Moves in the offseason have created drama within drama  during the 2011 Le Tour de France. Andy Schleck and brother Frank left Team Saxo Bank to create their own team, Trek Leopard. The Saxo Bank domestiques were faithful and most followed the Schlecks to create a fresh contending team on the cycling tour season. Crazier, was the move of Contador leaving Astana and taking over Team Saxo Bank and taking with him the Spaniards from the dismantled Cervelo Test Team. On top of all the off cycling season team moves, was the revelation that Contador tested positive for a banned substance the day before his attack on Schleck when he lost his chain. He eventually was cleared (for the time being as the IPO files an appeal to ban him… he can ride with the risk of having every title he won  in 2010 and 2011 stripped if they side against the grievance- which would so far  be 3,  the most stripped from one rider) and is  chomping at the bit to prove his muster against Andy Schleck. So much so, Contador has been heard expressing that he has a “personal” mission to defeat  his  nemisis, Schleck. 

Unfortunately, I believe kharma is  biting Contador in the butt  pads.  During the stage 1 race, Contador was caught in a crash in the middle of the Pelaton, which cost him  1:42.  On top of that, the team time trial result of stage 2, cost him another 10 seconds. All together, Contador is down almost 2 minutes  with 20 days to go! 2 minutes is almost an insurmountable amount of time to make up, even being a mountain rider, and Schleck’s questionable durability (with poor showings in Tour of California, and Tour de Suisse), two minutes is huge in a competition where seconds count. 

The bigger story has been the amazing break out performances seen in the early stages. The sprint points for the Green Jersey have been adjusted for the 2011 Tour de France.  Personally, I believe the true Sprinters among spectators feel they are being jipped by the adjustment. The break out riders tend to gain more of these points versus the true sprinters, such as Cavendish, Farrar, and Franchelli.  Currently, Phillipe Gilbert is in Green. Hopefully Jerseys will all work out in the end. It is a 3 week torture-on-two-wheels fest of a competition. As we break out of the first week leading in to the Mountains, stories, leaders, and jerseys will change among riders.  Another angle that has unfortunately found a way in to the spotlight are wincing crashes.  The course, spectators, and obstacles such as cars, motorbikes, and road hazards have affected favorites and breakaway feats all the same.  My dear friend and cycling enthusiast as much or more as I, has suggested Le Tour to contract German Polici, and “Nothing would go wrong, or else!”… Hmmmmm… French talking with Germans… Yeah, Okay! (in what world?)  Regardless, it’s been an exciting and surprising first week of Le Tour.  Quite honestly, for the first time in oh… years… the yellow jersey literally is up for grabs.  I cannot think of a  better year to convert more fair weather sports fans on to the greatest race in the World!  I look forward to amazing revelations as the Tour sets its sights upward to the Mountains. Do not sleep on And Schleck and Team Trek Leopard; they’ve quietly kept out of crashes and in front of peloton.  Vive Le Tour de France!

I urge you to watch highlights! You will get hooked!

This last week USA celebrated it’s independence on 4th of July and it has brought me to share a couple examples of GREAT leaders, as well as what should be prime examples of how Americans should be defined:

ESPNU hosted two of the greatest coaching mentors of my time, Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. These two legends give us bits of what it means to mentor and pass on the skills for success as a human and participant in our demanding lives.

United States Women’s Soccer (football to the rest of the world) team pulled off one of the most amazing feats EVER played on a pitch (men or women) versus Brazil, where they were down a player and overcame mind bending referee calls that most Americans (as well as spectators around the globe) are still scratching their heads over! USWNT  equaled in the last seconds of extra time a goal deficit to come back an defeat Brazil in Penalty Kicks! If you missed it, watch the highlights! This team is the heartbeat and physical example of the American spirit….

Dating an Italian, and just being a FAN… This was one of the BEST (if not the best) matches I’ve seen EVER! Not only was the US squad at a deficit with almost a half to play, they outplayed a power house “football” country, Brazil! 

Speaking of Brazil, I along with many others noticed on the Brazilian kit they displayed the stars representing  the World Cup wins from the men’s team (Brazil women, crazy enough, have never won a World Cup title). I thought, “Well, if the women can display the Men’s titles on their jersey, why not the US men displaying two stars for the US women’s titles? You can even make them pink! Needless to say, double standard applies… I gave it a shot!  Women are on the verge  for star number 3! USA!